Universal character traits in "Oedipus the King"

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September 9, 2007

Universal character traits in _Oedipus the King_

In Sophocles play, _Oedipus the Kin_g, there are many themes universal to all

humans. The main character, Oedipus, exhibits traits that humans possess and covet. We

do not wish to kill our father and marry our mother, but we can relate metaphorically to

his situation. We relate to the broad range of emotions he displays and his reaction in

various situations.

Oedipus mistakenly thinks he can change his fate by using his intelligence.

Ironically, it is his intelligence that causes him to (literally) blind himself. Oedipus is a

good person who ultimately succumbs to his fate through his temperament, intelligence,

and pride. We can see from the beginning that Oedipus is good person but extremely

proud and also a little vain:

Oh my children, the new blood of ancient Thebes, why are you here?

Huddling at my altar, praying before me, your branches wound in wool.

Our city reeks with the smoke of burning incense, rings with the cries for

the Healer and wailing for the dead. I thought it wrong, my children, to

hear the truth from others, messengers. Here I am myself-you all know me,

the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus. (1-9)

This is a great introduction to Oedipus the _man_. His true character is revealed

right in the opening scene. He loves his people. I picture him standing central to the

crowd. His people are looking upon him with adoration and hope in their eyes. They are

praying to him like a god. Oedipus likes this adoration. He has let it go to his head that

it was _his_ intelligence that saved the city.

It seems Oedipus is being a good leader and a decent man when he decided to

investigate the murder of Laius. When boasting of what he will do, he displays selfish

characteristics. He pointedly tells his people that the end result is merely to serve

himself, "by avenging Laius, I defend myself"...
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